Rodriguez inspires audience with music and advice


Crowds such as this one were normal for performances around the festival. Photo by Asa Lory

Trisha Chaudhary

Crowds such as this one were normal for performances around the festival. Photo by Asa Lory
As one of the first few performances of the night, people had just begun to crowd around the stage in anticipation for the singer Rodriguez to perform.
Made famous by the documentary Searching for Sugarman, which was shown at last year’s True False film festival and later at the Ragtag Cinema and Café,  fans warmly welcomed Rodriguez to Columbia. The documentary brought to attention the soulful singer’s discovery and what should have been his journey to fame, but was rather a journey to disappointment.
The major fan base for Rodriguez lies in South Africa where he is more well known than Elvis and was rediscovered when he went on tour in South Africa in 1979 and 1981.
Guided onto the stage by a helper, Rodriguez allowed his personality to show through his leather jacket, black fedora and black “John Lennon” sunglasses. Despite his ripe age of 70, Rodriguez’s youthful spirit still shone bright. Members of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros joined him to kick off his performance. The blue hues of the stage light and his soft, soulful tone mingled perfectly with the fading daylight.
Between songs when fans would yell out, “You’re Awesome,” or “I love you,” Rodriguez would turn to them and cheerfully call back, “I love you, too!” He would also offer up small tidbits of advice about life and love and even his support for President Obama.
“You wanna know the secret to life?” he asked once, a smile creeping at the corners of his mouth. “All you gotta do is keep breathing in and out.”
But the fun didn’t end there. No, advice wasn’t enough. The audience also treated to a peak inside Rodriguez’s sense of humor.
“So Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse are at the marriage counselor and the counselor turns to Mickey and says, ‘It’s not nice to say Minnie’s being stupid.’ And Mickey says, ‘I didn’t say she was being stupid. I said she was f***ing Goofy.’”
These quirky words of wisdom and jokes didn’t just make me laugh. They left me in awe at how someone who was so well known and had sold millions of records still had to ability to be so down-to-Earth and connect this well with the audience. It made me smile. It gave me hope.
Rodriguez played a number of his songs, including “Inner City Blues,” “I Wonder,” “Rich Folks Hoax” and one of his most popular songs, “Sugar Man.” His sweet, tangy voice, with the honey strumming of his guitar, sounded just like the recorded versions of his songs.
Though it’s popular knowledge to his fans that the lyrics of “Sugar Man” are about drugs, Rodriguez was quick to clarify.
“Sugar Man is a descriptive song, not a prescriptive song,” he said. “Get your hugs and stay off drugs. Stay smart; don’t start.”
His laid-back demeanor made me feel as if everyone watching were already friends, and anyone listening got to know Rodriguez a little better that night.
Though I was physically sober (and lacking the ‘Over 21’ wristband), Rodriguez’s music left me drunk off the blues. From him I learned a little about love, a little about life and even a little about myself.
By Trisha Chaudhary